Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mechanical Men Revisited

Last weekend I ran a couple of test games using the rules from my last post. The basic scenario used a company in line against a single medium mechanical man - mech from here on in. The mech was armed with a gatling ranged 24"/48" and the riflemen were armed with breech loaders later magazine rifles.  the games started with the mech just moving into maximum Gatling range (48") The mechs orders were:
If you fired last turn, move forward 9" otherwise, if you are over half range fire with 3 dice or if you are at half range or less fire with 5 dice. 
 Using the standard Soldier's Companion initiative and turn sequence, this created some unusual situations.  In the most basic case, the mech would slowly move forward firing most often in the defensive phase 3. The defensive fire phase ensured that the Gatling could fire every turn there was no movement. Even at 3 dice the sheer number of shots had an effect on the company and in one or two trials it broke before it got a shot off. When the mech did get within rifle range, the sheer number of shots put out by the company ensured there was at least one golden BB to assure its destruction. Changing to magazine rifles only sped up the process a bit.  Oddly the best tactic for the defending company was to advance as quickly as possible into range and overwhelm the mech with fire power - not really the result I was looking for.

Simple probability means that two volleys from breech loaders will pretty much guarantee a kill even with 6+ to hit and a natural 6 to fail the save.

Next up, I am going to try a standard defensive bonus of +4 for mechanical men but use hitpoints for the four types of mech:

Small: 1
Flying: 2
Medium: 3
Large: 5

We'll see if this feels any better. We'll also put the company behind some cover.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Mechanical Men for Space 1889 Soldier's Companion

A friend recently gave me a number of spare Heroscape miniatures, most of which will get re-purposed in one way or another.  The RPG side of Space 1889 features mechanical men as an item of technology that can be developed using the science rules. Sadly, they do not appear in the Soldier's Companion, so I  developed some draft rules to use them on the battlefield.

Mechanical Men

Mechanical Men - Flyers

Mechanical Men for Space 1889 Soldier's Companion

Mechanical Men are un-piloted autonomous mechanical devices of varying sizes and configurations - including some decidedly un-manlike. They come in three sizes small, medium and large plus flyers. This isn't canon, but allows a range of after market figures to be used. I thought about going larger to represent  mecha style big stompy robots but I think a variation on the tripod rules would better suit that concept.


Small mechanical men are roughly the size of an average dog and weight several hundred pounds.
They receive a defensive +3 modifier to hit in fire combat to represent their light armour.
They move 12" per turn.
They are equipped with small arms or a machine gun and  an effective close combat weapon.


Medium mechanical men are roughly human sized and weigh around 1000 pounds.
They receive a defensive +4 modifier to hit to reflect their moderate armour.
They move 9" per turn.
They are armed with any small arms, a machine gun or any artillery piece with a weight of less than 5 tons on the conveyance table. They are also equipped with a close combat weapon.


Flying mechanical men are winged devices of small or medium size only.
They receive the +1 flying bonus when airborne but have no armour.
They move 6" on the ground and 12" when airborne.
They are equipped with a carbine or smaller ranged weapon and a close combat weapon.

For my thoughts on flying in Soldier's Companion see: Space 1889 Soldier's Companion High Martian draft house rules


Large mechanical men are gorilla sized and weigh around 2200 pounds.
They receive a defensive modifier of +5 modifier to hit to reflect their heavy armour.
They move  6" per turn.
They are armed with any small arms, a machine gun or any artillery piece with a weight of less than 10 tons on the conveyance table. They are also equipped with a close combat weapon.


These rules are a direct crib from the old Striker rules for Traveller. Mechanical men must be given orders - preferably written down and interpreted by the referee.
There are three parts to any order all of which are optional:


The movement order must specify a location or a direction and speed. "Move at full speed toward the Top of hill one and stop." It can also be a distance or position relative to another unit. "Stay in line with the Second Fusiliers 6" from their left flank."


Fire orders must specify an enemy or range. "Fire at any enemy cavalry unit within 12 inches" or supporting fire "Fire at any enemy charging the Second Fusiliers" 


Rally orders specify a fall back location and may contain a simple conditional statement. "If unit casualties are over 50%, fall back behind the farmhouse."

Ad Hoc Orders

Ad hoc orders are issued by an authorized sentient being - typically a human commander. Because they are not fully programmed before the battle, these ad hoc orders can only have one of the three components. "Move to hill two." To fire on the way, the unit must be given an order to stop in one turn, then an order to fire on the next and finally a new order to continue to move toward hill two.

Fire Combat

Fire combat is conducted as normal though using the modifiers above. It may be desirable for mechanical men armed with more than small arms to have a limited number of shots per game to reflect that they are not conveyances with normal ammunition stowage capacity. This is at the discretion of the players or referee.

Melee Combat

Ground based mechanical men are slow but very strong. Opponents receive +1 in Melee Combat when facing mechanical men to reflect this slowness. However, on a higher score that is not double, mechanical men kill opponents rather than force them back. If mentioned in their orders or specifically ordered to, mechanical will fight to wound. Casualties are then assessed at the fire combat rate of 2/3 wounded, 1/3 killed. This behaviour is often used in crowd control situations.

Flyers kill or drive back opponents as normal in close combat. They are also considered weak opponents.


Mechanical men do not suffer from or benefit from morale effects and no morale checks need be made. They will carry out their orders until destroyed or told to stand down.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

I built a boat.

It was a rough start to the month, but one of the ways to keep the black dog at bay, is to keep doing things that make you happy. Gaming does that for me.   I determined that, apart from snuggling up with my wonderful wife this weekend,  I would build something - but what I wasn't sure. 

Then Malc Johnston over on The Wargames Website, posted the second part to his Trouble on the river Liu River 1900 series, and there was one of the simplest little gunboats I have ever seen.  Even I could do that! So off to the man cave I went.

HMS Demetrius

The Story of the Demetrius

The HMS Demetrius was originally the SS Demetrius the result of a failed private commercial venture to modernize grain shipping on the canals of Mars. One Thomas Pincham, of the automated loom threader Pinchams, fancied himself an off-world Brunel and invested his fortune in transporting a small single screw steamship to Mars. A devotee of ancient Greek culture, he christened his endeavour Demetrius or The Servant of Demeter, goddess of grain. Pincham had visions of his ship sailing up and down the canals, unfettered by wind or flood, delivering the harvest of the fields to the cities of Mars and of course their British advisers. Where trade lead, the Empire followed! Accomplishing this first required many trips and naturally massive transportation charges as each etherliner had limited space for mercantile cargo and that was at a premium price. The parts of the SS Demetrius arrived in fits and starts. Each shipment was placed in what was supposed to be a secure storage yard until assembly could begin.  

...or is it Detritus? 
Sadly this was not to be. Due to varying capacity on the etherliners then in service, parts were shipped according to their size and weight rather than their ability to be joined up in any coherent fashion with the components already landed.  Over time, the costs mounted siphoning away the Pincham fortune into the ether eddies of too many interplanetary voyages.  Finally though, the last item on the last manifest was checked off and using the dregs of his bank account, and rather too many loans, Pincham could get to work.

Only, the storage yard was not as secure as might be hoped and some of the local workers found the temptation of so much refined iron irresistible.   Several major and many minor components had disappeared over the back fence only to resurface as unrecognizable tools, jewellery and trinkets in the local bazaar. Pincham was devastated.  But fate was not done with him yet and the final blow fell - the customs man arrived with a very large and very unpaid bill for duties owing on Steamship (1) parts and accessories. With financial ruin certain, Pincham could not also face the social opprobrium of debtor's prison.

Fortunately for Pincham, if not for Mars and the Empire, it was at this moment that Oenotria decided to flex her muscles and attempt to force the Earthers out.  Steam vessels of any variety were desperately needed. The boilers and machinery of the Demetrius were not suitable for airship use but the vessel itself could be useful for control of the canals. Pincham magnanimously and patriotically, offered the Demetrius to the Government for the price of his customs bill with a bit left over to support him in at least comfort, if not the luxury he had once been accustomed too. His one requirement being that the ship retain her name as a symbol of "A great British mercantile dream now lost to the savage winds of war!" This was agreed to and the ship or her parts at least, were signed over to the Imperial authorities. Pounds in hand, and reputation mostly intact, Pincham left the planet without delay and disappeared into middle class obscurity.

It was now that the Royal Navy, her engineers and their civilian counterparts arrive to take stock of what they had bought. One less polite senior engineering rating remarked:
"It's not a ship! It's a f______ pile of c__p!  I've scraped things better able to float off the bottom of me boot! HMS Demetrius eh? More like HMS Detritus I say!"

The name stuck. It took many months and much improvisation but the HMS Demetrius was finally launched and placed into service. Her work on the canals was initially uneventful but recent attacks from the shore and air and have required that the original wooden wheel house be replaced with an armoured one. Because of  the lack of armour plating, Martian concreted armour was used instead giving the structure the look of a pillbox.

Build Notes

The Demetrius is quite literally made up of bits of scrap wood and MDF from the workshop. Malc's build  showed me that you can get a good result from simple materials. The smoke stack top and base are parts of a small decorative wooden apple drilled out to take a length of dowel I already had on hand. The galley chimney is spent .40 brass I picked up at a range years ago. The superstructure is glued and screwed and set back from the deck edge to allow a single rank of figures on either beam and a standard artillery base fore and aft. The armoured wheelhouse is a Type 22 pillbox that didn't print as well as I would have liked. I located it off centre to add a little visual interest even though an off centre weight his high up is generally not a good idea.  All it needs now is a coat of paint and some deck cargo for cover, and it's off for action on the Martian canals.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

20 mm Conversions for Chain of Command

First, a couple of warnings. The photos are not great - the camera is old and I am no Karsh. Secondly, 20mm is my cheap and dirty scale to do North West Europe quickly and with a small investment. Efforts are focused on getting toys on the table rather than on painting and I am no great painter to begin with.  Finally, painting and basing is not entirely complete. For those that were supposed to be, I was unable to find matte spray so had to settle for eggshell. Even though the can was very thoroughly shaken eggshells are apparently shiny. Everything will get shot of proper matte in the future.

One of the practical problems one can face when playing low rated forces in Chain of Command is the need to provide support. When playing a Canadian Motor / Infantry Platoon in NWE or Italy and possibly facing Elite Fallschirmjaeger the need becomes urgent since up to 26 points of support might need to be provided. To address this I need to make up a few teams that don't appear in the usual boxes of 1/72 plastics.  For others, I just wasn't happy with the provided poses.
Flame and Bren
First up is a flame thrower centre with a Bren gunner on the right. The source figure is on the left.  For the Bren I just cut away the barrel of the Enfield and replaced it with the forepart of a Bren cut from another prone figure,  The flame gun is just a length of stretched sprue. Having looked more closely at the life buoy unit, I would use a Thompson figure next time as the grip looks better. 

Back of the life buoy
I cut away the existing backpack to make room for the iconic fuel tank. I had hoped to use a tiny rubber O ring for the tank but I was out, so I used a 1/72 wheel retaining bushing from the bits box instead. It is too square in cross section but will do for now.  The fuel line is thin solder.

PIAT to Bangalore wire cutting figure
Just a quick slice operation to remove the PIAT and Sten then a hole was drilled to take a length of brass rod cut to length.

Demolitions Unit
A simple swap of the original PIAT ammunition carrier on the right to a satchel charge on the left.  The satchel is two 25mm US small packs glued back to back. An earlier attempt used two full packs but was well over sized.

Polish Mine Detector (right)
Another simple conversion by cutting away the rifle and using plastic sprue. The detector unit is a part number tab from from a model kit that just happened to be the right size and shape. Though the back pack had most of the detail scraped off to look more like an electronics box, I felt that trying to make the headphones was a route to insanity. There should be a counterweight on the end of the pole but I have yet to find a good picture.

Medic and casualty
This is not much of a conversion as all I did was cut away the Sten (see below) and add a medic bag using another US small pack and a bit of flat dental floss to make the strap.  All but one of the pictures of Canadian Medics I found show the armband on the left arm. I felt though that it was more obvious on the right and was also much less of a pain to paint (and I do have one supporting reference).

Officer to Platoon Sergeant
The original figure is on the far left. As noted above I cut away the Sten from another of the casualty figures - it was a bit delicate slicing it off the leg without damage - a sharp #11 blade is required. It was then a simple process to trim away the pistol and swagger stick and glue the Sten in its place.

Forward Observer
Very minimal work here. The radio operator is a stock figure. The FO is a kneeling Vickers gunner with  a bit of thin brass sheet cut to size and inserted in a small slit to make a map.

Sniper Team
Even less work on this one. Just a bit of stretched sprue for a scope.  Yes I know it's too big, he traded some whiskey to an American for an unofficial civilian model.... 

2" mortar crews - Conversion left and out of the box right.
Revell made a rather good British infantry set with all sorts of useful poses, Stens and support weapons. Sadly it is now out of production. On the left is my attempt to put together a mortar team out of mostly Italeri/Esci bits. The mortar was made from a bit of brass rod. The mortar man's arms were trimmed and re-positioned to hold the tube. Both the mortar man and the loader were originally less than useful Esci Bren figures who donated their weapons to create more dynamic LMG gunners as noted above.

After making one of these, a package arrived from certain paint sniffing dog.  In it was the much sought after Revell set! The mortar team from this shown on the right.  While I am proud of my little conversion, the pre-made one was a darn sight easier to put together.  Thank you Dog!